ADKOB / Ali Barter / Methyl Ethel / High Tension / Majical Cloudz / METZ / DMAs / DIIV / FIDLAR / Shamir / Big Scary / Royal Headache / The Internet / The Smith Street Band / Goldlink / Violent Soho / Grimes / Battles / Chvrches / Beach House / Flume / Purity Ring
College of the Arts, Sydney 07/02/2015
Words: Emily Swanson | Photos: Peter Zaluzny
Must-See Acts From Laneway Festival 2016
Are we saying these were the definitive bands this year’s Laneway had to offer? Heavens no! With four stages pumping out roughly 12 hours of music, these are simply acts from the rockier side of life that we can hand-on-heart say were well worth our time on the day. In other words, there’ll be no “Fight us, c*nt!”-style retorts coming from us if the synth-pop stylings of Chvrches and Grimes stole your heart at this year’s fest.
It was only a few years ago that naysayers had written off the boys from Mansfield as being little more than their grungy hit, “Jesus Stole My Girlfriend”. But it was as if those who’d seen them live had somehow been privy to the crystal ball of Australian rock and knew against all odds that the band’s best was yet to come. All this talk of guitar music being dead and it seems no one bothered to tell Violent Soho or their hordes of fans, with the band pulling together one of the bigger crowds of the day at this year’s event.
With the sun in their eyes and merch-clad fans spread across the grassy slope of the College of the Arts’ natural amphitheatre, Violent Soho ploughed through a string of hits from their 2013 breakout album Hungry Ghost, culminating in the insatiable (and ever-so-cathartic) “HELL FUCK YEAH” refrain that had punters frothing as soon as frontman Luke Boerdam played the opening lines of “Covered In Chrome”.
Proof that the band are still on the up came when they played fresh cuts from their upcoming album WACO – “Like Soda” and “Viceroy” – and drew as much attention from the crowd as live favourites “Lowbrow” and “Dope Calypso”. In all of their scrappy, garage rock glory – Boerdam’s beat-up guitar, James Tidswell and Luke Henery’s flailing manes – Violent Soho have struck one hell of a chord with the youth of Australia.
The Smith Street Band
Whilst we’re on the topic of bands that have struck a chord with the youth of Australia… The Smithies provided the perfect soundtrack to a scorching summer’s day as punters crammed between the sandstone college buildings at the Mistletone Stage.
Poster boy for the down-to-earth and down-and-outs, frontman Wil Wagner apologised that he’d lost his voice “singing along to the crazy shit in Battles” before adding, “nah, at least half of us have tonsillitis right now but that doesn’t matter in the slightest”. What troopers. Tracks like “Don’t Fuck With Our Dreams” – already a fan favourite – took on anthemic status, particularly in light of the city’s damaging lockout laws.
“Sunshine & Technology”, “Young Drunk”, and the more somber (by Smithies standards) “Throw Me In The River” had the crowd throwing down in the pit in the friendliest way possible, everyone in attendance relishing the positive vibes emanating from the four blokes on stage.
Excitingly, Wagner – who at one point epitomised Australian culture when he donned a Bunnings bucket hat – let slip that his band would be hitting the road with Tassie punks Luca Brasi in June for a massive national tour, so stay tuned for more info on that.
Adding to Laneway’s scrappy punk rock vibes were LA’s FIDLAR, who have been a BLUNT favourite ever since they hit us with their self-titled debut back in 2013. It was almost as if Laneway’s organisers based their final lineup decisions around which bands would best suit the festival’s middle-of-summer calendar slot; FIDLAR seem to specialise in summertime garage songs that preach nothing but a life of mates, skating and weed.
It isn’t any wonder that they’ve taken a shine to Aussie bong lords Dune Rats, with bassist Brandon Schwartzel repping one of their shirts on stage and two of the Dunies boys making their way up there for the screeching epic “Cocaine”, complete with a sit-down, jump-the-fuck-up instruction to the crowd. The tune will never cease to bring to mind Nick Offerman pissing on everything he comes into contact with.
The band’s mid-afternoon set was admittedly a more controlled affair than their sweaty club shows – and that’s truly saying something. By festival standards FIDLAR put on a wild show and had the pit raging through tracks like “Wake Bake Skate” and “Cheap Beer”, as well as newer songs “40oz On Repeat” and “West Coast” from their latest album, creatively titled Too.
Sydney’s Royal Headache are an interesting one. They deal in amped up garage punk, yet with soulful, bluesy undertones, they’re probably one of the few in the genre with enough clout to have played the Opera House and won over both NME and Pitchfork in recent times. Frontman Shogun managed to inject his heart and soul into every word, ripping off his shirt and declaring, “It’s the third day and my voice has gone to shit”. We’ll chalk it up to the singer’s humility, as he sounded on point to us.
Newer tracks like “Carolina” and “Electric Shock” from the band’s acclaimed 2015 album High went down a treat with the crowd, most of whom had made their way across to the Mistletone Stage after FIDLAR’s set (and were probably happy to set up camp for a while with The Smith Street Band to follow).
The four-piece easily demonstrated why they’re one of the most underrated bands kicking about right now, and at the very least won over indifferent punters passing by with their “Keep Sydney Open” T-shirts. “I’m fucked, can we stop?” Shogun seemingly begged the crowd towards the end of the band’s allotted time. After a balls-to-the-wall performance like that? You’ve earned this one.